Charlotte Connell is Ecosystem Director, at Climate Salad
What was your first job?
When I was 7, I produced, directed and starred in a Christmas concert with my cousins. We charged our parents and all the neighbours to come and watch it. We made just enough money to buy an icecream each. There’s not much I won’t try my hand in, I’ve been a surfing instructor in Mexico, through university I taught deportment and etiquette classes (which my close friends find hilarious). I’ve also worked in TV, radio and print journalism. But mostly, I’ve worked in the Not-for-profit purpose space in sustainability.
When did you know you wanted to work in business?
(I’ll answer that in terms of my jump into climate tech.)
I had just developed the Founder Institute’s sustainability vertical, and was helping out sustainability/ impact startups at Fishburners as an Expert in Residence, which I loved. My day job was doing sustainability consulting with larger corporate clients but it didn’t really turn me on. I loved helping the ambitious and innovative startups that were ready to change the world. So when I heard about an opportunity to work for a climate tech community run by one of the luminaires of the startup world – Mick Liubinskas – I said ‘I’m in’.
When I joined Climate Salad we had 45 members and more investors than founders. Today we have over 300 climate tech startups, 100s of mentors and over 80 VCs, family offices and angels worth around $2.6B in climate tech funds ready to deploy. We’ve just completed a successful trade mission to the US connecting startups to customers and capital. Helping these founders scale their solutions and further their impact is just the best job in the world. I’m constantly surrounded by climate solutions, and imagining a world where they’re all wildly successful fills me with hope and motivation to do more.
When did you first discover the concept of Impact Investing?
Sustainability, impact, purpose seem to traditionally solely belong to the not for profit sector, it was either make money or make a positive impact – you couldn’t possibly do both. But that is simply not the case anymore.There was a definitive change in the air around 2019 with the world’s largest climate strikes, sustainability became mainstream. This was of course followed by the bushfires, COVID and then flooding – no one wanted to do anything that didn’t have a purpose behind it.
What I love so much about impact investing and climate tech is the intersection between doing great for our people and planet but also unapologetically chasing profit and capital to further that impact. If capitalism is to blame for our climate crisis I do believe it also holds the key to solving it.
What’s one exciting development you and your team have in the pipeline?
As with all incredibly exciting developments, I can’t talk about it just yet but immediately coming up we do have the Climate Tech Festival and Awards on Dec 7 in Sydney (shameless plug) amazing opportunity to immerse yourself in the technology that can not only save us but ensure we’re a thriving, diverse and inclusive world.
What was the most interesting investment deal (from any team across Asia/Pacific) in the past 12 months?
There are a few I can’t mention yet but it was really great to see Regrow’s Series B $38M USD raise, and FloodMapp’s $8.5M USD seed raise – both founded by incredible women and companies with huge impact. Regrow in using technology to enable regenerative agricultural practices and FloodMapp helping communities be disaster ready, adapting to our changing climate.
But you know an investment deal I just love, is World’d Biggest Garage Sale and OfficeWorks 21% acquisition for $4M. What started as OfficeWorks asking the founder Yas – ‘hey can you help with this problem we have with old unused office equipment’ and Yas saying ‘yes!’ but not exactly knowing how they would deliver, is the essence of a what it means to be a founder. Say YES and work out the detail later. That customer relationship cultivated into a big raise for the company.
And of course the best investment deal you can have is the investment a customer makes in your business.
Name one high impact company (globally) that investors should keep their eye on?
Are you aksing me to name my favourite climate tech startup? How could you! I really do encourage you to check out Climate Salad’s directory for all of my favourite impactful solutions. An area I’m increasingly passionate about is the agri food tech sector, we will need to feed more people not less and we’ll need many different solutions, everything from lab grown meat to alternative proteins, to regenerative practices.
Nature based solutions is an incredibly exciting space too, natural capital is estimated to be worth anywhere from $16-54 trillion dollars PA.
And circular economy, only around 8% of our current economy is circular, we’re consuming far more than we’re capable of producing. So that’s also an enticing area for impact and innovation.
What’s your vision for Aussie climate-tech in 5 years time?
We have a vision at Climate Salad to help 1,000 climate tech companies and create 10 global successes by 2030. However, the speed and scale of which this community is growing, I have a feeling we’re going to have to shift those goal posts to bigger, more hairier and more audacious goals.
My personal vision is to have climate tech front and centre of building our economy and positioning Australia as the net exporter of climate solutions, not problems. Our industry report, was only a small snapshot into this sector but clearly demonstrated the benefits for jobs and growth. 171 companies had created more than 4,000 jobs and raised over $1.4B in capital, with half of that coming from overseas. And most importantly, what we do in startups today shapes tomorrow, so we must ensure that tomorrow is inclusive and proudly our community is world leading in our representation of female founders, with 39.8% of companies having at least one female founder. We’re a small nation but we’re innovative, we feel the problems of climate change more acutely so we are perfectly positioned to innovate the solutions for the world. My vision is for Aussie climate-tech to be world leading!